Posted By Charles J. Cochran, Jr. on April 6, 2009
It is sometimes more interesting to discuss theory instead of fact. Attorneys are versed in many areas of the law and we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that everyone knows about areas of the law that are clear to us. There is also a desire by many of us not to appear to be blatantly advertising for clients which is hard to avoid when you describe a situation and then tell people to hire an attorney to deal with it. I believe it is important that people be as fully informed as possible and then make up their own minds. In this day and age many people probably understand they may be entitled to some additional compensation for any permanent injury which they suffered at the work place. I feel that it would be better that I discuss it briefly here than make that assumption.
If you were injured in a work related accident in Ohio and you had no problems with your workers compensation claim you may not have become aware of the fact that you are entitled to payment for any permanent injury which you sustained related to the allowed conditions in your claim. There are few employers who will take the time to advise their employees that if they file an application for permanent partial disability they may be entitled to a payment of compensation. We must remember that this is a cost associated with the claim that goes into the calculation of the amount of insurance premiums which the employer will pay each year. Therefore there is no incentive for an employer to speak to the employee about these matters.
A benefit that a “good employer” gets from treating his employees well shows up when the injured do not feel the need to seek out an attorney to advise them in regard to their workers compensation case. If the employer sees that temporary total disability and medical expenses are paid to the injured worker then the employee is many times satisfied and does not look further unless they have information they might be due additional compensation. Further, in many cases, the employee feels they are being disloyal to the employer by filing the claim or seeking any additional compensation. I do not see where loyalty would be involved as it appears to me to be more of a business decision than one of loyalty but again it is a personal choice.
That is not to say that in each and every case an individual may be entitled to additional compensation beyond a wage loss type reimbursement and their actual medical expenses, but how will you know unless you ask? Some employers go so far as to advise their employees that they will take care of them and there is no real need to have anyone else involved in their claim. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and say that their intent is pure and they really do simply wish to help their employees. The employer will often pay their fair share of the costs associated with the claim and then hopefully get the employee back to work as soon as possible and as cheaply as possible. The employer may see the entry of your attorney in the matter as a complication which they would rather avoid. Keep in mind the employer probably has an attorney to advise them. While the people in charge of the Workers Compensation system will provide you with some information they are limited in what they can do for you. They are not attorneys and are not permitted to provide you with legal advice.
Undoubtably, there are some employers out there who actively seek to disuade their employees from seeking the advice of an attorney for reasons other than increasing any complexity in the workers compensation claim. After all, there is more than just an indirect benefit to the employer when the employee does not increase the cost of the claim by filing for additional compensation. Further, the facts surrounding the claim may merit other forms of compensation and/or benefits which both the employer and the employee might not be aware of. Remember, the employer does not have an obligation to the employee to fully educate them in the Workers Compensation process or the benefits to which they are entitled. Employees are, in many instances, familiar with Health Insurance where they are provided with a booklet which simply and clearly describes the obligations of the carrier. In Workers Compensation there are pamphlets available but you usually need to know what to ask for in order to obtain them.
If you have a permanent disability, in any measurable amount, you may be entitled to an additional amount of compensation due to this permanent disability. You do not need to be impaired to the point that you are unable to work and in some instances the permanent disability which you suffer from may be something that is barely noticeable to you if at all. Often an inury will limit the range of motion of say your arm or your spine. Once you become accustomed to this loss you may think little of it. This loss could very well be compensable to you. Take note that it is not mandatory that you have an attorney in order to file this application but it is advisable to have one since they understand the process. The workers compensation fund is established for the benefit of the worker but you will be paid nothing more than what you are due and in many instances you must actually apply for a particular benefit. If you are dealing with a “good employer” then they will not begrudge you making an application for permanent partial disability for the permanent loss which you sustained in the course and scope of your employment with them. The work which you provided caused the disability which you sustained. You performed the work for the employer’s benefit so you are not seeking anything for which value has not been given.
Some workers have the misconception that if they file for permanent partial disability they will be settling their claim and they do not wish to do that. However, this is not the case and the claim will will remain, at least for a period in time as stated in the law, open unless you take steps to actually settle it.
If you have any question please seek counsel from an attorney competent in this field to obtain any additional compensation to which you might be due. Many attorneys will waive any initial consultation fee in these cases since most take a fee contingent upon recovery. Remember, you are the one who will live with any lingering after effects of this accident.